My Ectocomp 2015 ballots

Here are the ballots I submitted for Ectocomp 2015. I wrote my comments assuming they would be read privately by the authors like in ParserComp, but I decided to just publish them here because why not! I realize many of the questions/complaints have been addressed in other places by now, so I apologize for the staleness, but I’d rather preserve my off-the-cuff thoughts as they were when I played the entries.

Le Grand Guignol:

Ashes | Glass Rat Media |


[spoiler]I like this! I played three times. Neat story, understatedly well-written, and even though the action is mostly
linear, there are interesting side pockets and small variations. One nice touch was that if you chose the chemo
drug while looking for headache pills, then you pull them out later when confessing to the assisted suicide.

There was a small structure thing that bothered me, though. There are a number of places where clicking
on what seems to be a “detail” link ends up not bringing you back to the “main” page. In other words instead of
going A -> B -> A -> C like I would expect, it goes A -> B -> C. I found this a little jarring; for one thing,
if I hadn’t finished reading page A, then I wouldn’t get to go back and read the rest of it. For another, it
felt like I didn’t get a chance to click on all the detail branches before advancing the story. In particular,
it seems like there is no way to get the backstory on all of the characters in a single playthrough. Perhaps
this is intentional, to make the murder mystery a little more… mysterious? It’s an interesting idea if
so. But it felt more just like maybe not quite realizing the ramifications of going against convention (or
possibly not even realizing it’s a convention).

I liked the “never have I ever game”, and that I could choose whether to drink. Sometimes this changed the
character with no comment (e.g. whether I had had been in unrequited love or not), sometimes it revealed some
backstory for each branch, and sometimes I didn’t actually get to choose but it framed the resulting backstory
differently. This is a neat mechanism.

Although there is an option for choosing to suspect there is a stranger out there murdering people, this seemed
like the only nod to being a horror/slasher story. I might have liked to see that made more prominent, but it also
worked well as just a “horror is not trusting/knowing your friends” kind of story.[/spoiler]

Nine Lives | Merlin Fisher |


[spoiler]“The squirrel, having witnessed your demise once, left with satisfaction. Its branch is now empty.”
Aw, I never saw the squirrel.

This was cute, though a little confusing. I wasn’t sure if my goal was simply to die 8 times, or to achieve
some goal before dying 8 times. Seems like the former, but maybe I missed something.

Also what do you do with the fluffy toy??[/spoiler]

Voice Box | B Minus Seven |


I like the structure, and presentation (glad to finally see a Twine game with scrollback!). But the story is
too surreal/abstract to do much for me. It works okay as prose poetry, but the imagery just didn’t cohere into
anything solid enough for me to connect with. And the WEEP / SEEK choices didn’t seem to do anything I could
predict. Maybe it just went over my head.

Invasion | Cat Manning |


[spoiler]It’s good, and creepy/thrilling. The aliens are a little too close to zombies, which I’m maybe not as sick of
as some people, but it’s a very well-worn rut at this point. The fact that they crave memories, or rather
physical tokens of memory, is an interesting twist, though. But, I’m not sure if this is a bug or I just wasn’t
paying close enough attention: it seemed like I was offered the choice at the beginning of what to keep and
what to leave behind, and I ended up leaving a bunch of stuff behind (thinking at the time that I should just
keep practical stuff), but at the end it offered me a choice of three things to feed to the alien, all of which
were things I thought I left behind at the beginning. And then I picked one (the ring)-- somewhat quickly
because I was expecting that I would have to go back and sacrifice all three things-- but the alien died and
suddenly the game was over, which was a surprise and a bit confusing. Why did it die? Was it the ring
specifically? I hadn’t even examined the ring before, so I don’t know if there was something special about
it. (Which made the line about not remembering what I gave it ironically fitting!) And does this mean that I
have now found the aliens’ weakness and saved humanity? Or is this just a brief respite for one more night?
(It didn’t help that since I was playing a local copy rather than online, Twine didn’t preserve any history so
I couldn’t just go back a node or two to read more carefully. That’s a pretty annoying thing about Twine and I
don’t understand why it has to be that way, but that’s not the author’s fault!)

I found myself wondering what memory-sacrifice was a metaphor for (if anything). The one thing I came up with
was perhaps it represents the feeling a writer (or any artist) might get when putting personal memories into a
published work: it (temporarily) satisfies the (unending) craving of the audience for “authenticity” or
whatever, but it can diminish the memory for the author because it’s no longer private and special. Except, not
being a writer, I haven’t had this feeling myself, and I suspect even if I were then I wouldn’t feel that
way. Which either means that the intended metaphor doesn’t connect with me, or else it was not intended and I’m
way off the mark for what it’s supposed to be, or it’s not supposed to mean anything at all… All of these
options make me feel a little more distanced from the game. But, I appreciate that the game made me even have
this reaction, and it’s interesting to think about![/spoiler]

Le Petit Mort:

The Ghost Ship | Jonathan Snyder |


Nice idea, but lots of bugs. And I needed help from people on ifMUD
to figure out BREAK COT.

Home/Sick | Felicity Banks |


I think I wasn’t prepared for this long a story. It seemed ok, and
amusing, but I couldn’t really get into it.

Halloween Dance | Mathbrush |


Cool, I like the two endings. The conversation system is clunky but is
a neat idea. I like that you can (in theory) ask either person about
any topic choice you have, though in practice most of them can only be
said to one person.

Open That Vein | Chandler Groover |


Yep. Creepy. Not quite sure how the first part is related to the
second part, though. Am I now the wolf and now rooting through the
garbage? Or am I a wolf in little girl’s clothing?

Food, Drink, Girls | Roboman |


Can’t tell how much of this was intentional parody (hopefully all of
it?). Either way, it didn’t really work for me. Sorry.

The Physiognomist’s Office | Christina Nordlander |


Confused about what to do… I spoiled myself by using GET ALL to
discover the key, but eventually I figured out where it was actually
hiding. I’m not sure what about this game is supposed to be
spooky/creepy; I guess the skulls? I suppose it’s hinting at a general
dread of surgery, and perhaps inappropriately invasive surgery or
quackery or something. But I think the hints were a little too

The Oldest Hangover on Earth | Marius Müller |


Fun puzzles and funny writing. I needed a hint about breaking the
laptop, though. And it would be nice if the hallway descriptions
indicated exits.

The Story of the Shinoboo | Adri Mills |


Points off because the game ended before I could eat the red

Heezy Park | Andrew Schultz |


UHH, I don’t get it, what does the MegaSol have to do with the rest of
the game? The candy wrappers were cute (deja boo and booomerang?). And
I like the idea of tracing out letters on the map. But ‘boo’ being
nearly just three circles made it a little less clear what was going
on. And what does the title mean?

Hey, it’s never too late! I just remembered I wanted to play through the Grand Guignol games. Also, off the cuff thoughts can be very good. Once we see how to do something, sometimes we forget frustrations we had with the cluing.

For instance I bet you read other reviews (and my postmortem) and saw what MegaSol was for, or what it could be for. A post-comp release should make it clearer, but I just had an idea for hinting what it does without spoiling it. So, yay for that!

Thanks for posting these! I was a little sad that we didn’t get to see the comments people left, so it’s nice to put them out on the forum like this.

Ohh, thanks for posting this! I’m working on a post-comp release right now and am SO happy for all the great feedback.